Anna Marie Pallachi – Roller Derby Queen
Sophia Pallachi had just started in on a
plate of lasagna when the pains began
coming regularly. An ambulance was called
and Sophia was rushed to St. John’s Hospital
in Brooklyn where she was delivered of a
healthy six pound baby girl.
The child, Anna Marie, struggled through
childhood as one of eight Pallachi offspring.
Home was a crowded apartment on the top
floor of a five story walk-up in Little Italy.
Silence was in short supply. The air was
habitually filled with the sounds of crying
babies, fighting parents, snoring grandmas
and the Great Caruso.
Anna Marie was taught how to make pasta,
knit shawls and take care of babies, but
none of these things held much interest
for her. One Christmas, however, Anna
Marie received roller skates from her
father, Vittorio the butcher, which solved
the interest problem forthwith.
Whenever she had a free moment, Anna Marie
spent it on her skates. Careening down
neighborhood sidewalks, her ribbonedpigtails
streaming behind, Anna Marie terrorized young
and old alike. Over the years she plowed
into ice cream carts, garbage cans and cops
on the beat, but nothing could deter her from
skating at every opportunity. She was the
best in Little Italy, maybe in all of Brooklyn.
When Anna Marie was seventeen it was arranged
that she would marry Joe Lola, an up and coming
soldier in the Brotherhood. In case of trouble
Vittorio wanted some instant protection in
the family. The skates were reluctantly put
in a trunk to be replaced by cooking, sewing
Anna Marie tried to love Joe, but it was
hard, especially when your husband can
never talk about his day at the office.
After six years of marriage and two children,
the roof fell in when Joe was wasted in a
gang war with the Spitale brothers.
After the funeral while sitting at home and
wondering what to do with her life, Anna Marie
absent mindedly turned on the TV. A roller
derby game was on. It was a sign. Leaving the
kids with Grandma, Anna Marie set out to become
a roller derby queen.
Though only 5’3” and 100 pounds, Anna Marie
was soon tearing them up on the banked track
of the roller derby circuit. In public she
was known as “Little Italy.” In private she
was lovingly referred to as “Wonder Wop.”
Little Italy could block and jam better than
almost anyone, but her real fame came as a
result of the spectacular fights she staged
with other skaters. Crowds went berserk as
she pummeled Big Martha into wining submission
or knocked a skater over the rail and into
the fourth row seats.
In just a couple of seasons, Anna Marie
landed an exclusive contract to play for the
Bay City Bombers and was featured in Sports
Illustrated and Ladies Home Journal. At
the peak of her popularity, and made fabulously
wealthy through lucrative endorsements, Anna
Marie undertakes a goodwill world tour on
Well received in Africa, Asia and Europe (She
is given the key to the city in Rome), Anna
Marie is on the last leg as she skates through
South America. Then disaster strikes as Anna
Marie disappears from a jungle trail deep in
the Amazon. The search goes on for months to
no avail. She is lost.
Her jersey is enshrined at the Roller Derby
Hall of Fame in Port Arthur, Texas. Flags fly
at half-mast in towns which get the games on
TV. A school in her old neighborhood is
renamed Anna Marie Junior High. She is sorely
Every couple of years some expedition reports
having sighted a petite figure on roller skates
barreling down a trail in the Amazon River basin,
but the sightings are never substantiated.
Though her fate remains a mystery, Anna Marie
lives forever in the memories of true sports